Thursday, December 1, 2011

Caravan of Stars 1959

While the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tours were not the first rock n' roll package tours, they are certainly the most iconic. Known for their low pay, tight tour schedules and modest accomodations (usually a Continental Trailways bus), the Caravans served as the jumping off point for many rock 'n roll performers in the late 50's and early 60's.  Here's a typical Caravan of Stars bus interior.

Today's post looks at the first full scale Caravan in 1959.  Dick Clark has proposed a tour in 1958 but things didn't work out.  He next tried a few shows in the late summer and hit a goldmine, which led to a full slate to shows in the fall.

8/30/1959 Hollywood Bowl,  Hollywood, CA
Talent: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Anita Bryant, Dody Stevens, Skip & Flip, Strangers, Duane Eddy, Freddie Cannon, Jan and Dean, Bobby Rydell, Jack Scott, Ray Sharpe, Jerry Wallace, the Young Lions

   Clark's Caravan sold out the Bowl with over 5,000 being turned away.  Variety reported that police set up loudspeakers six blocks away to tell people the show was sold out. It set an all-time attendance record.

9/4-7/1959 Fairgrounds Coliseum, Michigan State Fair, Detroit, MI
Talent: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Laverne Baker, Coasters, Freddie Cannon, Duane Eddy, Bobby Rydell, Anita Bryant, Jan and Dean, Jack Scott, Ray Sharpe, Skip & Flip, Rusty York, Santo & Johnny, Dick Carouso

Another huge success as the show set another attendance record by over 15,000 over the previous record in the fair's 110-year history.

With such overwhelming success, Clark engaged GAC to book a tour headlined by Paul Anka and also starring Lloyd Price, Annette Funicello, Duane Eddy, Jimmy Clanton, Laverne Baker, Coasters, Drifters, Skyliners, Bobby Rydell, and Phil Phillps. Arthur Dover was hired as the MC for shows where Clark did not appear. Irving Feld was the tour's promoter.

 No sooner did GAC book a full tour from September 18 through November 8 with the Caravan's debut in Baltimore than problems arose.  The Boston Garden, site of the Caravan's second show was being used for a hockey game earlier in the afternoon and GAC decided that they didn't want to go through with the show under those circumstances.  Instead, Tim Gale of GAC booked a replacement show in Scranton, PA.  Boston was a lucrative stop for any rock 'n roll show in the 1950s so the loss was not looked upon as a good omen.

9/18/1959 Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, MD

9/19/1959 Boston Garden, Boston, MA
9/19/1959 Scranton, PA

9/20/1959  Forum, Montreal, Canada

9/21/1959  Maple Leaf Garden, Toronto, Canada

9/23/1959 Westchester County Center, White Plains, NY

9/28/1959 Reynolds Coliseum, Raleigh, NC

9/29/1959 Memorial Auditorium, Greenville, SC

9/30/1959 Coliseum, Charlotte, NC

10/1/1959 Township Auditorium,  Columbia, SC

10/2/1959 Municipal Auditorium, Charleston, WVA

Two performances

10/3/59 State Fairgrounds, Louisville, KY
10/4/1959  Nashville, TN

10/5/1959 Cincinnati, OH  

10/6/1959 Memorial Auditorium, Canton, OH

10/7/1959 Lorain, OH

10/8/1959 Veteran’s Building, Columbus, OH

Two shows performed at this venue.

10/9/1959 Sports Arena, Toledo, OH 

10/10/1959  Civic Auditorium, Grand Rapids, MI 

10/14/1959 Hobart Arena,Troy, OH 

10/16/1959 Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, MO
Two performances

10/17/1959   Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, MO

The Caravan gains its first negative notoriety when midway through the show, fights break out amongst the 12,000 plus audience and police moved in to break up the melee.  In all, 49 men were arrested ranging in age from 17 to 50 for disturbing the peace and public drunkeness.  Although Dick Clark was not at the show, his association with the show drew lots of press and he held a news conference in New York to defend the Caravan.  He denied that the performers were responsible for what happened and said, "What happened was certainly unfortunate, but it only reflects the attitude of a few of the thousands of people there."

10/20/1959  Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, TX 

10/21/1959  Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX 

10/22/1959  Municipal Auditorium, San Antonio, TX

The cast hosted an on-stage birthday celebration for Annette Funicello.  Although San Antonio had an additional 25 officers on hand, there was no trouble.

10/24/1959 Municipal Auditorium, Oklahoma City, OK

Two performances

10/25/1959 Auditorium, Wichita, KS

10/27/1959 Auditorium Arena, Omaha, NE

10/28/1959  Auditorium, Minneapolis, MN

Police Chief Milton Winslow cancelled this show in the aftermath of the KC arrests.  Minneapolis had encountered four violent rock 'n roll shows in the past year.  "I am certain violence will occur again," he told the Associated Press.

10/29/59  Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, Des Moines, IA 

10/31/59 Arena, Milwaukee, WI

I still have a few shows to locate since the tour was reportedly booked until November 8, but this gives you a flavor.  If you have any additions or corrections, please let me know.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sources (and do I trust them)

One of the first things taught to historians is how to evaluate sources when reasearching their subject.  The same goes for those of us researching rock history.  Today I'll talk about evaluating sources in the specialized field of rock concert research. 
I generally lump sources by their type and then according to their reliability.  Here are the categories I use:

Listing -  This is usually a newspaper line item announcing a show. Usually in a entertainment section and taken from a press release. Depending on the proximity of the show date, I tend to rank this as moderately dependable. Here's an example of what I mean.

Ad - A newspaper or magazine advertisement with venue, promoter and ticket information.  Often has a promo photo of at least one of the bands.  This rate a bit higher in dependability for me since these are paid for by the promoter.  If he's spending money, there's a good chance the show happened.  Like this one:

Poster - Posters used to be a pretty dependable source for concerts but with the growth of eBay and the market for counterfeit posters, this now needs some investigation of their own validity.  I now rank these as low in terms of dependability. Like this fake poster from 1964.

Handbill - Handbills are a bit like posters in that they are more of a starting point, rather than a confirmation.  However, there isn't quite the counterfeit market for them so you don't see as many bogus ones to lead you down the wrong path. Here's one from 1965 Asbury Park Convention Hall.

Ticket stub - A bit above moderate in reliability but tickets were often printed for shows that where cancelled at the last minute.  But they are great for identifying dates in the first place.  Here's one from 1967 Hollies' show in Hawaii that was subsequently cancelled along with their entire U.S. spring tour.

Review - A show review in a newspaper or magazine is generally the confirmation I look for to ensure that a show actually took place.  But they too can be misleading.  Especially in the '60s and '70s, newspapers who did review rock concerts (and there weren't many) had a relatively early deadline for their morning editions.  So many times, the headliner got little notice since the reviewer often left before they went on to file their story.  Occassionally there was outright deception.  Poco was to play the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto on New Years Eve, 1970 and the review contained a brief description of their set amongst six other bands.  Problem was...Poco never made it through customs into Canada and missed the show.  I might never have figured that out except that the reviewer was fired when fans called him on it.  Turns out the entire review was fiction!

Tour Itinerary - Official tour itineraries are gold for what was originally booked for shows but often do not reflect shows that were cancelled or postponed.  Wish there were more of these around but most band members just tossed them once the dates were completed.  Thankfully Poco's Road Manager Denny Jones kept copies from all the tours he did with them and noted changes on them too! 

Fan recollection - Much like law enforcement, I take eyewitness testimony with a grain of salt.  It's great additional confirmation when they give you enough details to make sure they were actually there.  But more often, dates are several years off, bands are mixed up, and other details don't mesh.  Hey, if you can remember the '60s, you weren't really there, right?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Extra Hour

You'd think with an extra hour today, I'd manage to get a post up on the blog.  But it's been such a wild week that I really haven't worked anything up with any particular insights.  What I do plan on writing about at some length is dealing with sources and their relative trustworthiness.  Also upcoming here is some results of some of my research.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

That Elusive First Show

    I think one thing that surprised me when starting out researching various bands was that being able to confidently identify the first time they performed before an audience proved to be more difficult than I expected.  Now, you would think that the first time you performed would have impressed itself on your mind if you are a musician and it does...just not the details.  And that's why I do what I do.
   So let's turn to a band that I've done several decade's worth of research on - Poco.  This is a photo from their early days when they were known as Pogo...or R.F.D....or whatever they felt like that given night if you believed latter-day interviews (which I didn't).  Check any given rock history and the Poco entry will tell you they made their debut as Pogo at the Troubadour in Los Angeles in November 1968.  More detailed interviews with the band in the early 1970s revealed that their first performance was a hoot night - meaning they weren't billed, they went on as one of a number of unknown groups.  This was clearly going to be difficult unless anyone with the group remembered the date...which they don't. Plowing through November  1968 issues of every Los Angeles newspaper also didn't provide any new information.
   In delving through some early promotional material, I came across a press release from Epic Records that quoted several newpaper concert reviews...and one was a review that my research had not uncovered.  Since I'd looked at every November issue, I expanded my search into October and sure enough, a review for a performance by R.F.D. on October 24th that included an early promotional photo of the band appeared.  The writeup noted that the band had filled in that night for a band who had cancelled.  The review also noted R.F.D. had debuted earlier at a hoot night under the name Pogo but they had since changed it.  So October 24 was not their first show.  But it did show that all the previous sources pointing to November as their debut were incorrect.
   Additional research showed that Monday nights were traditionally hoot nights at the Troubadour so the best I can do is that October 7, 14, and 21 were the Mondays and on one of those nights, the band to ultimately become known as Poco made their debut.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Consider The Source(s)

Perhaps the greatest challenge or frustation for a historian is the lack of sources or the lack of definitive sources.  This is especially true in the area of pop culture like rock n' roll.  You'd think that there would be definitive biographies, release dates for records, tour itineraries, recording sessions, and the like.
But the fact is, in most cases, there isn't because no one felt that rock music or rock musicians would be around for more than a couple years.  They were the equivilant to the vaudeville animal act.  An documentation that is still around must be taken with a grain of salt.  Many a press release contain outright falsehoods - such as the initial press release by ATCO records for Buffalo Springfield that stated that the band was so poor it rehearsed by the side of the road and that's how they spotted the Buffalo-Springfield steamroller doing road work and that's how they came up with the name.  It's amazing to see how many teen magazines quoted that press release word for word in their initial coverage of the band.
So what's left for the rock n' roll  historian is scattered documentation tucked away by a band member or road crews, newspaper articles and trade publications that tell part of the story but it's up to us to piece it together.
Next up...I'll talk about some stories of how that's been done for my research into Poco.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Moondog Coronation Ball

As I mentioned in my first post, the Moondog Coronation Ball on March 21, 1952 is generally accepted as the first rock n' roll concert.  It was unique in that the performers were racially mixed and performed before an integrated audience.  Remember, this was 1952 and most of society was segregated and would remain that way for years to come.  Cleveland DJ Alan Freed promoted this show and he is credited by many to have coined the expression "rock and roll."  He had no trouble filling the 10,000-seat Cleveland Arena for this show at $1.75 a ticket.  Tickets sold out the day they went on sale.  Freed would have a troubled career and die way too early.  But in the formative years of rock, Freed was a solid promoter of the genre. 
     As for the show itself, it proved to be a disappointment.  An additional 6,000 fans showed up hoping to get in. When they were refused admission they began pounding on the doors.  At 9:30 pm, they managed to enter the Arena by overrunning police and knocking down four doors.  With 16,000 crammed into the venue, the police and fire marshall called a halt to the show without the opening act finishing their set.  Ah...rock n' roll.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where Do I Start?

      At the beginning....right?  But the fact is, I actually started somewhere in the middle when it comes to rock n'  roll history.  My interest in history began when I was young.  I was born and raised in a small foothill town in California surrounded by Gold Rush history.  My family had already lived in the area for four generations.  So history is part of my DNA, I guess.
      Fast forward to the mid-70s and I'm in college and reading Rolling Stone religiously and I'm collecting them.  Not as collectibles, but as sources for concert dates.  I started making lists of concerts and record releases for the groups that I liked.  Those never-ending lists.  I'm still making them. 
      So that's how I started.  And quickly found that using the Stone was incredibly limited.  So I've broadened the scope of my sources.
      Microfilm....miles and miles of microfilm.  That was the next resource I discovered and I've spent literally years hunched in front of readers squinting at indistinct text and blotchy photographs.
      And the internet...a virtual miracle!  An incredible resource but frustratingly scattered and notoriously incorrect at times. 
      My journey has not been without some focus.  Long before computers I had compiled a pretty comprehensive list of Buffalo Springfield concert dates and I had started on a list of Poco concert dates.  That has blossomed into a website devoted to Poco concert dates and associated members solo work.  More on that later. I've also supplied research for other people's books and websites and have much more in the works.  So let's see where this takes us.
     Oh, and the beginning...most people say it was this: